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Bettendorf and Pleasant Valley STEAM students produce, donate protective gear

Bettendorf and Pleasant Valley STEAM students produce, donate protective gear

  • Updated

A group of high school students and their STEAM on Wheels instructor are making the most of their time without in-person classes to create mask extenders on 3-D printers and donate them for essential frontline workers throughout the Quad-Cities.

About 200 of the extender straps, which are attached to the elastic on masks and help to relieve the pressure on the wearer’s ears, have been donated, and more are in the works, said Samuel McCullum, director of the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) LAB, located at Bereskin Gallery & Art Academy, 2967 State St.

McCullum started the nonprofit STEAM LAB several years ago with a mission to teach STEAM classes to preschoolers through eighth-graders.

"As this pandemic is going on and we’re not able to hold programs or classes, I looked for another way to reach out to the community and work with high school students," he said. "We are at home now and wondered how we could use our knowledge to help flatten the curve of the coronavirus."

He worked with officials at Grant Wood Elementary School to procure several 3-D printers and dropped them off at students’ homes.

He shared the file for the extender strap pattern with the students, who are from Bettendorf and Pleasant Valley high schools, and the production work began, with materials sponsored by the Bereskin Gallery.

So far, the extender straps have been donated to Hy-Vee, Churches United and the Iowa Masonic Home. Plans are in the works to send some along to  medical facilities as well.

"I am extremely proud of Sam and these young people," Pat Bereskin, owner of the gallery, said. "I think the community should know that STEAM on Wheels didn’t let COVID-19 stop them from learning or being a partner to our neighbors when we were forced to close the doors for general business.”

The STEAM lab offers summer courses for students of all ages. For more information, call 708-527-8994 or go online at All classes will transition to online.

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